The sixth-seeded Oregon State Women’s Basketball team takes on second-seeded Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen coming up this Friday. Get to know the Bears a little more in this Q&A with Ohio Baylor Fan from our sister SB Nation blog Our Daily Bears. Thank you to Ohio Baylor Fan for your insights!
Hard to believe it’s been just two years since these two team last met in the 2016 Elite Eight. How does this year’s Bear team look different from that 2016 squad?
Baylor sweetheart Nina Davis is gone. She made it to the Elite Eight four times, bless her heart, but never further. Freshman Didi Richards probably reminds me most of Nina but Nina Davis will always be remembered as having made the most awkward shots. Coach Kim Mulkey said about Nina’s awkward shooting, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We will always love Nna. Coach Mulkey says Didi has a bit of “meanness” in her.
Beatrice Mompremier was the starting forward in 2016 against OSU. Kalani Brown beat out Beatrice early last season for the starting job and Beatrice transferred to Florida State just before the start of this season. Kalani actually played more minutes against OSU than Beatrice in 2016. Kalani, 6’7’’,
is a junior now with two years as the starting forward under her belt. I think you can do the then and now comparison when I say that Kalani dropped a lot of weight last season.
6’4” Sophomore Lauren Cox just set the Baylor rebound record for Sophomores. You’ll get to know her. Her and Kalani deliver a 1, 2 punch that usually translates into points from the paint for the Lady Bears.
Alexis Jones, Baylor’s leading scorer against OSU in 2016 is gone. She had gifted ball talents but we’ll see a much more balanced team this Friday night.
Nila Johnson is gone. She was Baylor’s plodding point guard. Freshman Alexis Morris has all the skills of Nila but add lightning speed with radar accuracy.
Alexis Prince, gone, was a dynamic work horse defending the perimeter, but Sophomore Juicy Landrum did an excellent job stifling Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty in the second half of the Round Two game. Also, we’ll see Morris find Juicy more than once for that opportune three.
6’2” Senior Dekeiya Cohen. Coach Kim Mulkey’s 2018 secret weapon. She didn’t get minutes against OSU in 2016. Dekeiya is blossoming. You won’t see any gaps or suffer a dull moment when Dekeiya is on the floor. She’ll be crashing the boards right alongside Kalani and Lauren and is equally adept on the perimeter.
You pretty much gotta look out for all six of them Lady Bears for 39.5 minutes. Why just 39.5 minutes? Well that’s when Coach Mulkey has been putting in the managers allowing the team to get a standing ovation for a game well played. I hope the tradition continues this weekend.
Baylor went 31-1 this year with their only loss early in the year on the road against a decent UCLA team, but ended up with a two-seed for the NCAA Tournament. What’s up with that?
It’s a thing that Coach Mulkey does for me. She stages a tournament game in my neck of the woods every other year so that I can conveniently go watch the Lady Bears in tournament play. I got to see Britney Griner dunk right in front of me against Florida in Bowling Green. I got to watch Coach Mulkey grab the ball away from Odyssey Sims for one last coaching lesson (for which she got a technical) in South Bend. I was looking forward to seeing Baylor put the whooping on Tennessee in Lexington but it seems you guys have crashed the party.
Seriously though, it is because UConn, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Louisville are really great teams.
Your starting point guard, Kristy Wallace, was hurt in the final regular season game with a season ending knee injury. How has her backup filled in up to this point?
Since Kristy Wallace’s injury Alexis Morris has had to step up and play more minutes but she was regularly rotated in from the bench all season long for significant playing time. Additionally throughout the season, whenever Alexis took the floor, Kristy rotated to the perimeter and Alexis became the point guard. With Kristy injured it is more along the lines of Alexis having taken full control as opposed to filing in. How’s Alexis doing? The Lady Bears are 33-1.
What are Baylor’s strengths?
Depth is the biggest issue facing Lady Bears. With just six players that have Coach Mulkey’s confidence, their depth is very limited indeed. However, what could have been the Lady Bears biggest weakness has turned into their biggest strength. In practice, each player gets more one on one with the coaches. Coach Mulkey says she is more proud of this team than any other team she has ever coached. She knows all their tendencies and what they are gonna do before they ever go out on the court. She has been transformed into more of a cheerleader than a coach on the sideline during game time. And it is not just the coach who knows the tendencies. They all know each other and care about each other and each is more concerned about the team than themselves.
This has been a recurring theme from opposing coaches starting way back to the start of the season. The Lady Bears are a “team.” Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell had this to say about the Lady Bears back in November after they got spanked by the Lady Bears 90 - 63. “That’s a powerful team. That’s a very, very good team – great guards. I thought [Alexis] Morris was so impressive and such a good player. All of them had a really good game tonight. When you can shoot really well from the three and you have two powerful post players who can score inside almost just as well, it’s a lethal combination.”
Said the Lamar Head Coach Robin Harmony after being walloped, 121 - 62, “Obviously, we played a very good team in Baylor and there’s a reason why they’re ranked third in the nation. You know, our kids are a little bit shell-shocked. That size is unbelievable. The high-low is something that is almost impossible to stop. The only way we did stop it was when we got three seconds for about four times and that was it. Even if you do try to stop it, they kick it and they hit the three. They’ll probably be in the Final Four this year.”
Coppin State Head Coach Dewayne Burroughs after being burned 100 - 54. “They’re firing on all cylinders: guard play is great; post play is fantastic. I don’t think you could ask for much more than that. To be honest with you, I don’t see many teams in the country beating them this year.”
Well back to what I was trying to say about the very limited depth becoming Baylor’s greatest strength, this closeness has been coalescing all season long. Texas head coach Karen Aston makes note of it after their loss to Baylor 81-56 on January 25. “I thought they were very in tune with each other and really in good position all night long. They were in the gaps really well. It definitely slowed down our penetration, and when that didn’t happen we weren’t patient enough to move to the next options of the offense. We got stagnant. They looked like they were really in tune to personal and all the things that you have to be defensively at this level.”
Beside depth which could be a really serious issue in the event of foul trouble? Very possibly two weaknesses. Kalani Brown can’t jump, but at 6’7”, who cares? The Baylor managers suck at playing basketball.
What’s your prediction for how this game will play out?
I won’t even venture an outcome on this game except to say that we know there will be 39.5 minutes of great basketball.
Sic ‘em Lady Bears!